February 19, 2001
The Role of Religion
Voltaire’s Candide is a perfect example of how satirical literature can be both humorous and serious. Candide was an Age of Reason book that set out to communicate a message on the wrongs of the world. One issue that Voltaire focused on greatly was religious hypocrisy.
Voltaire was against the practices of the Catholic Church. There are many examples of how Voltaire depicts the injustice that he sees within the church and its social structure. The first example came when Pangloss was explaining how he got infected with syphilis. Pangloss said that he got it from Paquette, and she got it from a learned Franciscan Friar who had derived it from the point of origin… .” Voltaire’s whole point is that friars are not supposed to be having sex, yet this friar does and manages to get a disease and also pass it on to someone else.
The next attack on the church came when the old woman strongly suspected a Reverend Franciscan… for stealing Lady Cunegonde’s money and diamonds. Although he was a reverend that didn’t make a bit of difference to the old woman when she assumed he was the thief. She said that because the reverend slept in the same inn, and had been in their room that night, that he must have stolen the money and diamonds. The reverends affliction with the church did not phase her at all. Not surprisingly, it turns out that it is the Reverend Friar who stole Lady Cunegonde’s money and diamonds.
Another great example of Volatires prejudice is shown when Cacambo is talking to Candide about Paraguay. Cacambo describes how wonderful Paraguay is, what a great government they have. Also, how the Fathers have everything, the people have nothing: it’s a masterpiece of reason and justice. I don’t know how anyone as divine as the Fathers…” This is how Voltaire sees the church and the corruption within it. The Fathers are no longer serving God or the people, but rather they are running everything for their own personal gain.
One of the last examples Voltaire puts in the book is the meeting between Candide, Brother Giroflee and Paquette again. Paquette begins to tell Candide about how her innocence was taken by a Franciscan Friar who was her confessor and easily seduced her. She goes on to say how she had to sell herself to make a living and what it’s like to be forced to caress without discrimination and old merchant, a lawyer, a monk, a gondolier, or a priest, to be exposed to every kind of abuse…” The worst of the hypocrisy comes when the monk himself begins to talk to Candide.
Father, Candide says to the monk, you seem to be leading a life that anyone would envy: you’re obviously in the peek of health, your face is aglow with happiness, you have a pretty girl for your recreation, and you appear to be quite content with your lot as a monk.
The monk replies …I’ve been tempted a hundred times to set fire to the monastery and go off and become a Turk. The monastery is filled with jealousy, discord, and anger. It’s true I’ve preached a few bad sermons that have brought me a little money-the prior steals half of it and I spend the rest on women-but each night I go back to the monastery at night I’m ready to smash my head against the wall of the dormitory, and all the other monks feel the same.
This is where Voltaire sums it all up, the corruption and greed of the church has become so bad that even the monks themselves can no longer stand it. There is no moral justice left in the church or its practices, at least not in Voltaire’s eyes. Throughout the novel he crushes the Catholic Church and everything it stands for. Through the exaggeration and sledgehammer techniques, he makes it quite obvious that he despises the church and everything it stands for.
Voltaire’s Candide pokes fun of everything that is wrong with our society. Not holding anything back, he breaks down the structure of all that has been cast in stone. Voltaire’s criticism of the church was not only humorous